links loved / may 24


Inspired by Elise Blaha Cripe’s series “weekend links,” each Saturday I post a list of fun things like articles, blog posts by others, and goodies that I got a kick out of, and I hope you will too. Spread the love! And have a great weekend. xo Leah


I’ve been listening to Cape Breton fiddler Rachel Davis’s album “Turns” a lot while working at the Gaelic College, and her delicately-sung version of “Spanish Bay” is just beautiful. “She said she didn’t want to stay, she’d rather live on a farm in Spanish Bay,” has been stuck in my head a lot, in a good way.

(Fun fact: Spanish Bay was at one time the name of the Sydney area.)

Sarah Von Bargen of the blog “Yes and Yes” on how frustration is actually the time of personal growth.

Rachel Cole on the importance of crying in public.

I loved this fun, simple, interactive way of reminding myself that today is actually really small in the scheme of things.

Susan Hyatt on what to do if it feels like you need to change everything about your life, rightthissecond.

The Bloggess makes me giggle. Here she talks about how successful she is at laziness.

And Tara Whitney’s family portraits/photography are just dreamy.

Part Five of one of my favourite series: How To Be Awesome by Alison Faulkner Robertson. It’s called, “Avoiding the Comparison Trap.”

I’m excited for Katie to unwrap this book I got for her and her little one today at the baby shower! (She’s a Graphic Designer too. We’re nerds for this Pantone stuff.)

This Etsy shop, Crafts by Caleigh, is run by a Sydney gal, and I just ordered myself the harmonica necklace.

Posted in Art, Community, Day to Day Life, Design, For Fun | Tagged , | 1 Comment

life lately / may 23



When I get bored printing things or copying things, I just look up: this is the view from inside the copy room at the Gaelic College.


I tried out a pedometer this week (borrowed from one of the library branches). Potential upcoming post on that. This step count was taken early in the day!


My friend Nicole taking a picture. (We were walking around the North End before we went to the Ideas Youth talk.)


Not-so-great iPhone shot of some really great dancers at the Ideas Youth event!


I forgot I had ordered these cards from Elise when she did a pop-up sale a week or so before. A nice surprise in my mailbox! Love the hashtag one…

Whew, it’s Friday again. How does that happen!? Between lots of good stuff going on at my work term at the Gaelic College, and attending the Ideas Youth event on Wednesday, and having a job interview yesterday (yay! I’ll keep you all posted) and trying to keep on top of the dishes at home, well, the week has flown by.

Tomorrow I’m going on a trek across the island to a baby shower for a dear friend. I’m excited!

Sunday, I’m hoping to spend some more time in the garden. I don’t even care if it’s raining, I’m going to go out there anyway! Yesterday in the evening, I transplanted some lilacs I got from an abandoned property, and tried sticking some forsythia branches in the ground to see if they’ll take. Just those few minutes in the garden made me want to spend entire days there.

Anyway back to work! Have a great Friday.


Posted in Community, Day to Day Life, Leah's thoughts | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

street art as opposed to vandalism


A mural in downtown St. John’s, a picture I took in November 2011.

So yesterday’s post sparked some comments, which is great, because that’s when I know what I’m doing is working!


This tunnel was a big draw for me as a tourist in St. John’s and I spent a good twenty minutes inside, checking out all the details.

On Twitter, Matthew Ingraham and I had a bit of a back-and-forth. To my initial tweet sharing the blog post, he responded, “Bad graffiti hurts business, good graffiti is art. Empower the artists, embrace street art. Watch business grow.”

I wrote back, “Imagine if our downtown Business Associations commissioned artists to paint murals?”

Matthew: “Stop calling the cops would be a nice start too. 🙂 “

Me: “it gets tricky when someone owns the building and the artist doesn’t have permission to paint on it… cooperation is key. as dorky as that sounds. :P”

Matthew: “indeed, that’s why it’s best to empower artists and you’ll see a lot less property damage on other buildings.”

Me: “I wonder: can a bldg owner go ahead + get someone to make art on their bldg, or do they need permission?”

Matthew: “interesting question, in my opinion art is better done without permission. No rules.”

And on the Facebook group Dream Big Cape Breton, D. Hinson Calabrese wrote some great thoughts about the root of the word “graffiti” and how complicated and contradictory the issue can be. He also urged me not to assume that it’s kids doing the vandalism, which is a point well taken:

The etymological root of “graffiti” is from the Italian “graffio” which means “to scratch”. The OED defines it as “A drawing or writing scratched on a wall or other surface; a scribbling on an ancient wall, as those at Pompeii and Rome. Also, a method of decoration in which designs are produced by scratches through a superficial layer of plaster, glazing, etc., revealing a ground of different colour.” Even the very definition of the word is fraught with complication and contradiction. The act of ‘graffiti’ is undertaken by both simple vandals and inspired artists. One of the most important movements in contemporary art is of course street art and the examples of it are many. Street art is so ubiquitous, in fact, that it has become institutionalized (Banksy at MOMA for example) and–as all important art movements tend to be–corporatized (Coca Cola ‘graffitiing’ buildings during the London Olympics). I think the important thing gloomy naysayers and vandals alike is recognize and promote the value of good street art, and to shame and admonish the hideousness and cowardice of bad street art. And just so we agree, a cheap tag in a dark alcove of a small business on Commercial St. is super lame.

Besides the black line on the van which I may seems suspicious, I have to suggest that it is hasty to immediately conclude that bored kids are to blame. I do not suspect that gainfully employed baby-boomers are tagging buildings in North Sydney, but I would regret that an otherwise thoughtful blog post would turn into more hand wringing about ‘kids these days’.

And Nicole Dixon wrote:

Another solution, too, is to set aside areas for street art. Isn’t there a wall near the skatepark in the Halifax Common for said purpose? It’s happening in a lot of cities all over and is even becoming a tourist attraction. And the CBRM sure does love its tourists.

What we need to do is make street art (and, so related, skateboarding) more public/visible in the CBRM. Why are all our streetparks hidden away? Take the Coxheath park–why is it behind the arena so no one can see it? If skateparks were moved to/built in more public places–such as parks (what a friggen shame there’s no skatepark in Open Hearth Park) then graffiti (and skating) could become public and praised instead of hidden and shamed–and the kids who do these things would feel that praise, too, and take pride in their communities.

There were more great comments in the Facebook group, which I always love to read, but I won’t post them all here just to keep this post relatively short. Check them out, join the group, lend your voice!

Just so we’re clear, I love street art. I think it’s beautiful, colourful, lively, creative. When I’m in a new city, that’s one of the main things I seek out and photograph. My headshot that I use for all my social media is actually taken in front of a big piece of street art in Halifax (ironic, I know, and soon I’ll be getting a new one done in front of some art in Cape Breton!). And I think that our downtowns can encourage street art, which would have so many benefits: liveliness, lovely exteriors, tourist draw, and give people of all ages the message that their art does have a place.

I’ll leave you with a few links:

Toronto’s street art is a tourist attraction.

Downtown Guelph has a yearly Street Art fair.

A bit in the Independent about the confusion on whether something is art or vandalism.

A show in LA in 2011 called “Street Art Saved My Life.”

Posted in Art, Community, Day to Day Life, Design, Leah's thoughts, Love, Towns + communities, Women + kids | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

making their mark: on downtown graffiti

On Saturday I was walking along the sidewalk in North Sydney, heading to the little office supply store that I buy from, Buffetts Office Pro. The main door is inset a little bit, and just off to the side there is another door, also inset. Just as I was about to go into the store, a piece of crumpled-up paper towel popped out from the other doorway onto the sidewalk. Naturally curious, I peeked around.


There was Jim Buffett, the owner of the business, scrubbing away at the wall. It was obvious what he was cleaning up, because some of it was still visible: the black scrawls of tagging.


We chatted a bit and I took some photos, with his permission. (Including this one above of how the graffiti-remover took the paint right off the door.)

Then I went into the store to buy the things I needed (printer ink, pens, tape, whiteout and card stock), and got chatting with Jim’s wife Karen. She told me that it costs them about $1000 a year to keep up with painting over the graffiti on the outside of the building. And, as soon as they do it, it’s tagged over again.

She also told me that it’s happened that a young kid of 12 years old came into her store to buy a big black permanent marker. She knew why he was buying the marker, but had to sell it to him; what was she supposed to say? And when she went out later, her van had a big long black mark down the side of it.

IMG_1660 (This is the Buffetts’ mascot, Snowball.)


Graffiti is “one of those things.” A “sin,” a thing you shake your head at. Why does this happen, we wonder. What can we do? We imagine the young people, imagine what their lives are like, why they act out this way. But it feels like there is nothing you can really do, besides sigh, take out the tub of graffiti remover, and get scrubbing.

This is our community. And in some ways, it’s sick. I think the constant defacing of downtown buildings is a sign of that. It’s not that the kids are evil, it’s a sign that they are human, have emotions and need an outlet for them. I remember being 14 and thinking it was super cool to be bold enough to take out a marker and write on random surfaces like phone booths.

But what’s not cool is when this action means a local business has to spend their hard-earned money and time cleaning up, constantly, after someone else’s rebellion.

How can we help our young people contribute to the downtown landscape, instead of destroy and deface it? The small businesses they are hurting are not the right target. They are not “the man,” the system, that young kids are looking to strike out against. So how can the community support our kids and stop or at least cut back on the defacing that hurts local businesses?


I’m not sure of the whole answer, really, but this seems a good time to tell you about an event happening tonight in Sydney that is all about giving the young people a positive outlet for emotions. I’ll be there, cheering them on. Here is the Facebook page with more info. See you there!

Posted in Art, Community, Day to Day Life, Leah's thoughts, Towns + communities, Women + kids | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

glory in the green-ness


Well! It was quite the weekend!

Nothing crazy and dramatic, really, but just some much-needed time at home.

Saturday I spent a good six hours outside in the garden. Adam’s folks came over and they helped us save a limb on our pine tree that had gotten cracked in big ice storm last month, as well as helping us trim back the forsythia that had been taking over the steps on the back deck. (We gave it a super close haircut!) Then Mary and I played a bit in the beds, raking and edging, while Adam and his dad watched some of the hockey game.

After they had gone, I stayed out there and played more. It’s so addictive! While I’m doing one thing, I always think of a whole bunch of things I want to do, and plants I want to have. (This is my Garden board on Pinterest if you want to check out my dreams.) Even though we’ve been in this house two years, I still haven’t spent much time in the gardens, and so it feels a bit like The Secret Garden, like I’m uncovering a gem. Love it.

garden2 garden3 garden4 garden5 garden6 garden7 garden8 garden9

Then on the holiday Monday, I went for a walk in the woods near our house. It was raining but I didn’t care, I have a sweet new pair of waterproof hiking boots that were a birthday gift from my Mom. (Purchased through Escape Outdoors in North Sydney.)

woodswalk1 woodswalk2 I so love being in the woods, even when it’s raining. Especially when it’s raining!

woodswalk3 woodswalk4 woodswalk5 The freshness, the birds singing away, the green-ness all bursting forth, it is intoxicating! woodswalk6 woodswalk7 woodswalk8 woodswalk9 Oh, I love it so much!! This feels like the best time of year.


Posted in Active living, Day to Day Life, Environment, Leah's thoughts, Love, Outdoors | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

links loved / may 17


Oh man, another week gone by, it’s just crazy! This long weekend ahead is a dream.

All last week I had been thinking ahead to it and thinking, “Oh man, I want to go for a hike! And a drive around the Cabot Trail! And visits with friends! And! And!” and then… I didn’t plan any of that. Thank goodness, because I would have had to cancel my plans, and I do hate to do that.

The reason I would have been cancelling is that three days with no plans, right now, in my life, is like someone handing me a giant gift-wrapped box complete with a pretty bow and saying: “Here, open this, my love.” Inside would be three days to basically decide what I want to do, in the moment, and do whatever I want. All I can say is: Ahhhhhhh.

I get to hang out with my boyfriend. I get to sleep the heck in. I get to putter in my garden. I get to putter in my office, and do some of the work I’ve been having to put to the wayside. (Which, as long as its done with the windows wide open, and music playing, is actually fun.) The only plan I’m making is to go to the Farmer’s Market on Sunday here in North Sydney, and that too is relaxed, I mainly just wander around with a coffee and a bratwurst and catch up with friends.

Anyway! Without further ado, to help sweeten your weekend a little, here are some links I’ve loved lately:

The Twitter account Heard at CB Bars is hilarious.

5 Tips for Prolific Living from gals who know all about it!

Beautiful paper goods to drool over.

The wonders of grow-lights! (Also, the blogger lives on Cape Breton!)

Elise talks about using stamps in all her branding materials. Which makes me want to order some Cape Breton stamps, immediately.

My friend Krista using recycled and reused materials in her home renovations in Halifax.

A neat way that some rural folks in the USA are making hitchhiking a safe travel alternative again.

Not that I’m getting hitched any time soon, but I stumbled across this website a few weeks ago and really dig it. It’s colourful, down-to-earth, well-designed and, well, practical! This piece about the children of divorced parents who dare to get married anyway really struck a chord with me.

Have a real rad weekend, everyone. Thanks again for all your support, it means the world to me! Now off to my garden. 🙂

Posted in Community, Day to Day Life, Food + agriculture, For Fun, Leah's thoughts, Love | Tagged , | Leave a comment

garden advice needed: soil to fill the box?


Well, now, that’s obviously not what’s supposed to go there!

Soon I’ll be getting this big larch wood planter box out onto the lawn and I’ll be looking to fill it with soil. I’d love advice on the best way to do that. Buy some? And can you get it in loads, or just bags at a store? Dig it up myself? Experienced box-gardeners, educate this gal!

(Yup, I know, I could just ask my mom, and I will, but I’d also love to hear from all of you, and, your answers won’t just educate me, they’ll also educate other people new to gardening! Thanks Internet, for being awesome.)

Have a great Friday!

Posted in Day to Day Life, Food + agriculture, Health, Outdoors | Tagged , , | 10 Comments